NRL's Dr. Dale Bibee Wins Prestigious FIRST Robotics Award

6/24/2009 - 54-09r
Contact: Donna McKinney, (202) 767-2541

Dr. Dale Bibee, a section head in the Marine Geosciences Division of the Naval Research Laboratory, received the Woodie Flowers Award at the FIRST Robotics Bayou Regional Competition on March 21st. He was recognized for mentoring the Northshore High School robotics team.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization was created in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen with the vision "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes." As described on the FIRST website, the organization seeks to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. More than 1000 high school teams from across the nation, and many from foreign countries, compete in 40 regional and a national event to showcase their team's robotic solution to a challenging "game," designed differently each year. During the intense six-week build season following the announcement of the game, students work side-by-side with technical mentors to develop designs, evaluate trade-offs, devise strategies, and fabricate a robot, learning technical skills, team work and management of resources and risk.

Dr. Bibee has served as a mentor to Northshore High School's Team 1912 (Team Combustion) for all four years of its existence. At the Bayou Regional he was awarded the Woodie Flowers trophy, the second most prestigious award given by FIRST. It is named for Dr. Woodie Flowers, an MIT mechanical engineering professor and one of the founders of FIRST Robotics. Dr. Flowers attended the Bayou regional for the first time and personally presented the award to Dr. Bibee. It is the only time that the award been won by anyone from Louisiana or Mississippi. As described on the website, the Woodie Flowers Award celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design. Dr. William Murphy founded this prestigious award in 1996 to recognize mentors who lead, inspire, and empower using excellent communication skills. This award recognizes an individual who has done an outstanding job of motivation through communication while also challenging the students to be clear and succinct in recognizing the value of communication. Students from each team may nominate a mentor and submit an essay describing how this mentor has given them the best understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and satisfaction involved in the discipline of engineering and design.

At NRL, Dr. Bibee leads the Seafloor Sensing Section (Code 7433) that seeks to develop innovative ways of determining the geoacoustic properties of the seafloor, to provide tactical advantage to the Naval warfighter who is using bottom-interacting sonar systems. Developing prototype systems installed on Naval ships and submarines is a core component of this mission. Dr. Bibee sees many parallels between the technical challenges in such developments and the challenges facing the students in the FIRST program in pushing the envelope of design within difficult time and resource constraints. In the course of mentoring students, he tries to not only teach technical fabrication skills, but to show the students the laws of physics that govern the performance of the robot and guide the design. Many of Team 1912's students have gone on to student positions at NRL in the SEAP and STEP programs, and the skills they have learned in FIRST make them valuable contributors to NRL's mission.

While it takes significant time, Dr. Bibee highly recommends that other scientist and engineers consider volunteering to join a team as mentor as it is a richly rewarding experience. To learn more about Team Combustion visit and to learn more about FIRST see

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